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The Rule-Breaker is amazingly sweet and devastating at the same time.  Ranger Eli Weston is spending his leave helping his best friend’s family construct a memorial.  His friend committed suicide while in the Middle East, the things he had seen too much for him to handle.  Only Eli knows what really happened and is doing everything he can to keep that secret – he found the body and told everyone it was an accident.  To make things even more stressful is the undeniable attraction Eli feels for his best friend’s ex-fiance.  Shelby Monroe also feels that attraction … and knows Eli’s secret.  Now she’s getting letters threatening to reveal the truth and only Eli can help.  But will they be able to work together to guard the truth about their friend?

This story just broke my heart on so many levels:  the unbearable things that Micah saw that lead him to commit suicide, the burden that Eli thinks he carries alone, the guilt he feels about his feelings for Shelby, that their romance seems to be doomed because of their loyalty to and love for a mutual friend.  The world isn’t pretty and war especially so.  The men and women who give up so much, not only the soldiers but those who love them, are a very special breed.

Eli’s had a tough life but he found a second home with Micah and his family.  A home, though, that was originally threatened by his feelings for Shelby and then even more so after Micah’s death.  He’s got a very strong sense of honor and loyalty that makes it hard for him to give in to the attraction to his friend’s love, regardless of whether Micah is in the picture or not.  Shelby’s attraction to Eli made her realize that even though she loved Micah, she wasn’t in love with him, so she ended their engagement.  With him now gone, she has the same conflicting feelings that Eli does.  But with the help of friends and family, they eventually work through their problems.  There’s a little bit of mystery involving who is sending the letters about their secret, but the core of the story is about the two of them accepting their feelings for each other and their friend.

I think my favorite part of the book is actually a secondary plot involving Shelby’s friend Mavis and local businessman Lee.  Lee suffers from a stutter that makes him sound like Elmer Fudd and it has made romantic relationships very hard for him.  He’s an amazing man – smart, kind and handsome – but he’s had a hard time with women.  I almost wish that he’d gotten a story of his own because he is so compelling but I was very happy to have him finally get the girl.

Pick up The Rule-Breaker only if you are okay with shedding a few tears before the happy couples get it right in the end.